On Fox News Sunday this past weekend, Rep. Paul Ryan created a stir when he said that there would be another debt ceiling fight in spring.
“We’ve never just done nothing,” Ryan said. “We want to make sure that we’re taking steps in the direction of fiscal conservatism, of fiscal responsibility. I, for one, think we need to do more in the energy sector. I believe we need to approve Keystone pipeline. We need to produce regulatory certainties to all this private capital that develops this energy boon. We could be an energy independent continent within a decade if we stop the government from stopping it from happening. If we just get the government out of the way, it could be a real renaissance of oil and gas exploration in America, lower our gas prices, stop sending this money to foreign countries.”
If Republicans demand that the Obama administration approve the Keystone pipeline in return for raising the debt ceiling, they will likely have the political edge. Americans support the pipeline by large numbers.
In addition, during the last shutdown, Americans wanted Obama to negotiate over the shutdown, but they understood that the GOP’s demand that Democrats defund or delay Obamacare was pure extortion. Thus, while their position to negotiate was popular, their demands were not. That’s why the public overwhelmingly blamed Republicans for the shutdown and debt ceiling brinksmanship.
But if the Republican Party instead chooses a demand that is both reasonable and widely supported, they will have the upper-hand politically.
The scary part is that Obama’s refusal to negotiate last time had nothing to do with politics. It was to set a standard that the debt ceiling cannot be taken hostage by an opposing party. The administration is saying the same thing this time around, but it will be harder not to negotiate when Americans blame them and Congressional Democrats.
That sets up a clash between a president unwilling to negotiate over the debt ceiling on principle and a Republican Party with an incentive to push Democrats right up until the last minute to see if they cave under the political pressure.
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